Monday, October 5, 2015

Universal Studios in Grand Parent Mode

In the early years of amusement park hopping, this ole dawg and his spousal unit could run with the best of them.  These days, we are having to slow it down a bit.  These bodies don't cooperate like they used to.

The knees are the first thing to go.  Some rides have multiple stair cases and they are a killer on these bodies that we once considered bionic.   And my stomach,  once considered cast iron, now can only handle the simplest of rides.

The new fangled twister coasters have been off the radar screen for quite some time.  The biggest disappointment was not being able to fit in the Harry Potter ride a few years ago.

But, fear not.  I've been able to entertain myself in other ways.   Bobbing and weaving thru security check lines is a new past time of mine. Even with my size, I'm getting pretty good at it!

We made our way to the back of the park to the Harry Potter section.  Along the way, we saw Scoobie Doo, and Shaggy.  The dog costume was tall, but the guy playing Shaggy looked seven feet tall!  Next up, was Marilyn Monroe and her escort.  That gal looked awful good for being 85 years old!

It was now time to check out the new Harry Potter experiences.  It cracks me up to know people will pay $150 for admission to stand in line for an hour, anticipating a five minute ride!  After a good look around, it was time to board the Hogwarts Express!

The train ride requires a "park to park" ticket for the journey to the other Univeral park.  If you didn't purchase this kind of ticket, there is a booth for you to purchase an upgrade.  Each ticket is tied to a finger scan to insure that multi-day tickets aren't being shared among several individuals.

There are lots of stairs to master to reach the loading stations, but there is also a service elevator for your convenience.  We made it to our loading corral, along with several otheer families,  including this English family.

The train conductor assigns you to your cabin.  We took our seats, with only two remaining.  The English family walks in, needing three seats, and announces in their serious English tongues "well, one of you fine families are in the wrong cabin.  The conductor told us cabin B, and you are in cabin B, so one of you must leave!"  We all looked up at this "witch" like, really???

The conductor arrives to save the day, "sorry ma'm, this happens all the time, please just step into the next cabin,  as there is plenty of room.  In a huff, she and her husband made their way to the next cabin.  Their little boy, about age 5 lingered, then pointed his finger at us, and shamed us with "you know, this was to be our cabin, and like my mum said, one of you must leave!"  We all chuckled and agreed that he was a definite mini-me!

After visiting the other side, and a ride or two, we headed back to the train station for the trip back to the other side.  The station attendant reminded us to have our park tickets and finger ready for the scanner.  At this point I asked "do we need a Visa"?  The attendant replied "no, but we do take American Express!"  Everybody got a good laugh out of that one.

We once again reached our boarding station with two other families.  One included an older special needs son.  The son was sitting in a wheel chair, trying to get his Dad's attention.  He was not being successful.  All of a sudden, he reached over to his Dad, and literally grabbed him by his balls!  The Dad quickly recovered.  I'm  about to die!, looking at the spousal unit,  wondering, surely she.saw it too!  Yep!  And we are about to board the train with this guy??

The ride was uneventful til the end.  Then the "special" adult announced "don't  want to, ride again".  He repeated this several times.  Once the doors opened, we were out of there lickity split!

The spousal unit got to feed her roller coaster habit, and I got to do my people watching thing.   I thought for a moment that I must be on a Star Wars set, with all the different hair colors, strange clothing, and body piercing and tattoos! Then, very quickly.i was brought back to the wizard world by the sight of all and adults in wizard robes and each of them waving their newly acquired $60 wand!  These were special wands that interacted with magic stations found throughout the park!

To me, the best treat in the park is the "butterbeer " a butterscotch flavored icee.  I get an immediate brain freeze every time!

For you coaster fans, the incredible Hulk coaster was down for repairs. It was literally down.  Sections were being replaced.

Another noteworthy item, the Beetlejuice show is scheduled to be replaced next year by "fast and furious".  The survey guy that told me this, would not disclose what type of attraction that

We have been here countless times over the years, and it never gets old.  We get excited to see the new stuff, and are saddened to learn what has been replaced, like Jaws!    But one thing that is certain is there will alsways be change, so we deal with it.

Can't wait for the next trip.  Bring it on!

unofficial Florida Sun Pass Expert!

After this morning's one hour phone call to activate a Florida Sun Pass, I can now say that I am a foreign resident, unofficial expert.

We had the cheapie sticker on the old Chevy Traverse.  I figured why let it go to waste, so I peeled it off the Chevy  Traverse and used packing tape to secure it to the smartazz Acura for the trip south.  I figured it wasn't the proper thang to do, but WTH, who is gonna know!?

 I figured we would buy a new portable version on the trip and toss the old mini once we activated the new transponder.  During a spousal unit rest stop, we.pulled over at the first Florida welcome center and picked up the new transponder

We broke up the trip down.into two days, stopping in Destin for overnight.  We still had not activated the new transponder.

We made it to Orlando just fine,  spending the next day at Disney, then planned to hit the road back north on Saturday for the Ole is vs FL football game in Gainesville.  The packing tape that  i used on the old mini transponder was coming apart in the wind.

Now time to activate the new one.  Easier said than done!    Tried to activate the new one using the spousal unit's laptop,  no go, not recognizing the transponder number.  Tried two smartazz phones, same problem.  Even tried an Apple, Orange and Pear and still no go!  Office not open until Monday.

This morning I make the call.  On hold for 20 mimutes, then finally an operater.  I explained my situation.  Lady looks it up, "transponder already active" she says.  Buy we haven't activated it!

Lady says, "well its active, and there are already charges on it from the Mid Bay Bridge at Destin." WTH???  Seems the radar picked up the new one, still in the wrapper!  "Sorry sir, you cannot add this active transponder to an existing accout."  Whoa!  I paid $20 for this thang!  "The only thing you can do is open a new account".  Okay.....

We go thru the process over the phone. "Sir, why do you have two cars with the same tag number?"  Answer:  we traded cars and swapped the old tag to the new car.  Personalized plate, you can do that in Mississippi!

"Sir, you messed this all up (said in Spanglish) but  i fix it for you!  I close the old account and deleted the Traverse.  I opened you a new account and added the Acura.  You need to pull the mini and throw it away.  I refund the balance on the old account to your wife."  "The mini sticker only goes on one car, you messed it up!"  Answer:  yes ma'm I did.  "You throw away the mini sticker right away!"  Me:  will do!  You are wonderful!  Thank you very much!

Lady then says "you let your wife do it from now on
  She no mess it up!"  YES MA'M!!!!

So, if you buy a Florida Sun Pass transponder, let your wife handle it, because you wikl just mess it up!

Disney Springs

If you haven't been to Downtown Disney in a while, you won't recognize it when you return.  Downtown has been renamed "Disney Springs".  Lots of new construction done and more ongoing,  all for the good!

The huge parking lots that went on forever that would stress you out looking for an open parking lot are being replaced with huge parking garages.  The roads a tree full of overhead crosswalks for the safety of pedestrian foot traffic.

The completed parking garage is five stories tall.  Each level has tall ceilings,  and are brightly illuminated.   Their are electronic devices that tell you how many spaces are available on each floor and better yet, devices that tell you how many spaces are available on each row.  The open slots have a green light to guide you to them.  Escalators and elevators are at the ready to get you to the shopping and dining experiences.

Pleasure island is all but gine, replaced with new shopping and dining establishments.  One restaurant has a ramp for the cars that are also boats, which I'm guessing are accessible by guests staying in on property hotels with water ferry access.

They have also installed a landing the completed the loop from Rainforest Cafe, so there is no longer a "dead end".

We found a new ship where  Disney has partnered with outside vendors that have put the Disney stamp on their products, companies like Dooney Burke, and Vera Bradley.

Disney is definitely taking steps in the right direction with their updates.  Unfortunately for the tired and weary, it's going to require you to walk even more, which isn't a bad thing.

I'm a member of the Landry Select Dining club.  They had posted a $25 dining credit to my account which expires in October.  We used our card to the front of the line for a table, eliminating the one hour wait time.  We were seated within 10 minutes at Trexx.  We also used the $25 credit against the bill.  The funniest thing, you can visit this restaurant 100 times and no see it all.  I spotted a duck hanging front the ceiling, and the duck had an arrow sticking out of its butt.  The waitress has been working there for over a year and had not.spotted it!

We finished our visit with a stop at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory for our favorite, the hot fudge sundae!  We will be back for another before our departure!

I'm sure there is much more to discover in this reinvented market place, but our feet and toes were telling us to save it for another day.

If you haven't figured it out, yep, we love this place!  Thanks Walt!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cry Wolf!

I've been watching a Wolf cub grow up into a young man cub for quite a few years.  I met this boy along side his Dad, Tommy Wolf, quite a few moons ago on the soccer fields of Rankin County.  If you didn't know Tommy back then, you would, within five minutes, love him or hate him.  He was that kinds guy.  Me, I'm a lover, not a fighter!

Tommy left us way too early in his young adult life.  He did leave us a reminder of him through his three sons and beautiful wife Patty.  The one legacy I'm  fondest of is his middle child Conner.  One look at his killer smile and you see Tommy in him!

Conner and his brothers stepped up to fill the shoes that Tommy left at the back door.  One passion Conner had early was kitchen duty.  For him, food prep came easy.  It was quick to see that this young man had the talent in his bones to be able to carry a message through the plate of food.

Patty has never gone hungry with Conner near the kitchen. She has been able to nurture his passion by providing him access to the ingredients only trained Chefs appreciate.   Anybody can cook, but to be able to bring out the true flavors in a dish with Suttle herbal hints is a God given Talent.

Conner followed up on his food passion by first working with Jeff Good and Dan Blumenthal.  He then went off to the W for some initial kitchen skills training, followed up with a move to Miami for formal training at the Le Cordon Bleu.

Conner graduated this week from LeCordon Bleu, and he has been practicing his skills at Local 463, Caet, and Walkers Drive-in.  I have not yet been by to catch him in action, but all three locations are now on my hit list.

If you are in any of these fine establishments, give him a shout out!  And yell "tater bomb!"  For his Dad Tommy!

A Day at the Swamp!

Today was game day Saturday down in Gainesville Fl.  It was the spousal unit's Rebels against the Gators in the Swamp.  Since we were already in Florida on a family vaca in Orlando, and why not!

Placed an order for BBQ with Smokey  Bones for a road trip.  I put six pounds of hot Q in my little Yeti for the ride.  I got behind some Gator fans and we were in Gainesville in no time.  During the trip we crept up on an ambulance.  Something caught my eye.  There was a gas grill mounted on the back of that thing.  As we got closer we were able to get a closer look.  That ambulance was all decked out in blue and orange.  It was the wildest tailgating setup I've seen in a long time!

We met up with friend Jackie and company in the shuttle bus parking lot.  Made friends real quick with some Gators all camped out with a huge bus with ESPN playing.  They shared the tube and some Gator juice and we came to play with cheese straws and that six pounds of Q!  That Meat was still smoking when I lifted the lid!

The shuttle ride dropped us off at the corner of the stadium.  During the walk through we met the nicest fans.  Welcome to the Swamp was heard more than once.  Hey, I know Hotty Toddy was another!  Being an Ole dawg with a rebellion hat on, I weren't too sure what to make of all that!

The stadium was an awesome place to visit.  One the way to our seats we made a quick rest room stop.  Just as I was about to enter the men's room, a lady made a wrong turn, and in she went!  I yelled "Hey!  Wrong turn!"  As she quickly made a 180 degree turn, a gator fan tossed some paper towels her way and yelled "off sides! 5 yard pemalty!"  The whole restroom erupted in laughter, Gator fans and Rebel fans alike!

Our seats were slap dab in the middle of the Gator student section.  These students get their tickets in a lottery and you could tell a bunch were sold resale just like mine.  That, or I was sitting beside a bunch of Grey haired freshmen!

One fan with three kids had moused up and dyed the hair of both boys, who were of a different skin color.  Jokingly, I asked if they were born with their hair like that?  The mom replied "no, they were adopted! "  we had a bigger laugh once she figured all that out!

An older lady next to the spousal unit tapped her on the shoulder to warn us of the students behind us.  She said "keep an eye on that young lady.  She's quite drunk and she might vomit on you, and we can't have that happening to such nice guests as you!"

Before kickoff, they honored a military family with guest seats.  The soldier recorded a message to the from Afghanistan.   Suddenly he ran onto the field as a surprise to his family!  They also honored a wounded warrior, and the flag was at half mast to honor recent tragedies.  It was an awesome sight to behold.

After both teams had entered the playing field, a significant number of players from both teams went to one knee in the same endzone for a moment of prayer!

The game didn't play out in favor of the Spousal unit's Rebels and later I heard that the same fate fell upon my Bulldawgs.  But hey, that's college football.

We made our way back to the shuttle buses.   We were back in the shuttle.parking lot in no time and we're back at our Orlando Condo in record time.  Love a Gator convoy when I can find one!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

This Old Disney Pro is Slipping

Damn!  The aging process is catching up with me! Twenty four hours haven't passed and I've already had several slip ups!  Thank goodness the spousal unit and I have gone into "grand parent mode" early!

We had just left Steak & Shake, headed back to the condo to pic up the sleepy head first born.  On the way I just happened to ask his girly friend if she had her ticket to Disney Not So Scarey Halloween on her, just in case we couldn't wake up sleepy head by phone.  She said "what ticket"?  Whoops!  Communication is the key!  "I thought you were buying that ticket?"  Major rut row!  This is a limited supply ticket event! Quick check with smartazz phone, and I was able to buy two more!  Will call ticket window here we come! Whew!  This Pops just saved face!

Being an old pro, I'm  supposed to know my way around.  We have always stayed "off property", ride to parks is easy, just follow the signs.  This trip we are on property at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort, our timeshare.  Big six tower complex.  Nice!  We pull out of the complex and hit the "on property" roads.  Problem!  Very few signs marking the way.  We end up at the contemporary  resort, having missed the turn to the road to the gate where you pay your $17 to park.  No problem, only 15 minute delay.

We get to the ticket window to pick up the two extra tickets at the "will call" window.  The ticket window lady hands me two plastic passes.  My other two tickets are paper tickets I printed off the internet.  She said I had to convert those to the plastic cards for the magnetic readers to pick up the information.  Technology has just passed this old-timer big time!  No more paper?!!!

We are in the park having a great time.  Hitting all the rides that will be shut down after 7 p.m. during the Halloween event.  We have just eaten.  Now headed for Space Mountain.   This coaster, no problem, since no flips.  I start out "wooo!"  Screaming with every turn!  Then it hits me!  I'm not that young guy anymore!  Voice is now silent!  I've just gone into survival mode!  I can make it to the end!  Whew!  Ride over!  Spousal unit is laughing away at me and the look on my face!

So, it's now official!  Its time to pass the title of "tour director" on to the next generation.   It breaks my heart to have reached this stage of life.  It's like I have been the lead lion all this time and now I have been defeated.  Father time has been good to me up till now.

But, there is still hope for this old battle veteran.  I'm  the only one of this pride that is up and moving!  There is still hope for me afterall!

On to the next adventure!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Number 300!

Yep!  This this is blog post number 300.  Kinda ironic that I'm making this milestone post on today, September 28th!  My special day of the year, and I'm  sharing it with you!  This is number 59!

I worked for over 35 years before one day I was told "this isn't working, so I'm eliminating your position."  It wasn't because I wasn't doing my job. I was good at what I did.  After 30 years you know your stuff inside and out.  That  was 3.5 years ago.  I haven't looked back since!

I attended countless training sessions through all of those years and I learned that I truly had something missing in my life.  I had worked to live, to take care of my wonderful wife and raise two boys.  There was no time to refine a hobby, since we had a mortgage to pay for and college educations to save for, and hopefully enough to be able to take a nice vacation every year.

I had devoted my life the those three most important people in my life.  Supporting Lanelle in her career was number one.  Following Matthew through high school band activities was number two.  Making sure that Morgan had everything he needed to succeed playing select soccer was number three.

It seemed I never took time for me.  This has never been an issue with me because I was always busy making time for the other three.  Buy still, through the years I knew something was missing.

Around my 53rd birthday I was in yet another one of those work related self help seminars.  The question of the day was "what are your personal  goals?"  Gee, I'd never had any, since I was all caught up in my other three priorities.  LaNelle was now settled in her latest career move.  The boys were almost done with with high school and wrapping up college.

I took some time to look deep into myself, trying to discover what my personal goals should be?  This was very difficult for me because it was always about "we"!

Then it hits me.  It has been there all along, but I had just been far too busy to see it.  The vision for my personal goals was now crystal clear:  "bring a little happiness into somebody else's life each and every day!"  This is pretty simplistic,  so obvious, but it was the real me, and it has been there all the time right under my nose!

I knew there were issues with my boss, and I had worried myself sick about it for several years.  After I had my revelation, these issues didn't  matter anymore.  Do your job, do it well, and the rest will take care of itself.

During the fall of 2011, I had resolved to myself that the job could no longer rule me.  I must take over.  I continued to perform my duties to the best of my abilites.  Unfortunately this was not good enough for the man in charge.  I decided it was time.   As soon as I wrapped up the current year end, I would begin my search for new employment.  Then, on February 17th at 4:25 in the afternoon, I was informed that that was my last day.

The first few minutes I was in shock, but then the true reality began to set in, I was now FREE!  I was handed and envelope and told to leave.  I did, and I haven't looked back!

Today is my 59th birthday and I'm  here to celebrate it with family and friends like you!  Facebook and this blog have been two of my outlets for reaching my personal goal of bringing a little bit of happiness to someone every day.  I hope that I have succeeded and brought you a little sunshine your way.  It sure beats carrying that dark cloud around that never seem to disappear.

So this post 300.  Now you know why i take the time to write these postings of mine.  Now you know why i spend so much time of FB.  It is my hope that I have occasionally succeeded in my goal.  This is a wonderful day that God has made.  Get out there and enjoy it.  It's on me!